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LISBON, August 4, 2018 (News Wires) - More than 740 firefighters battled a forest fire in southern Portugal on Saturday as temperatures climbed to near record highs in the Iberian Peninsula amid a Europe-wide heatwave that has brought drought and wildfires from Greece to Sweden.

Seeking to prevent more deaths after 114 people were killed in two massive forest blazes last year in Portugal, civil protection sent mobile text alerts warning the population of an extreme risk of fires in some regions, including around the capital Lisbon. In Greece, a wildfire killed 91 people last month.

In the coastal resort area of Cascais, outside Lisbon, a power network overload due to heavy use of air conditioning caused a blackout on Friday night, leaving tens of thousands of people without power for several hours and shutting a large shopping mall. In Lisbon, temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Friday.

The blaze began yesterday in the hilly Monchique area of the southern Algarve region, popular with tourists. Authorities evacuated two villages in the area and 10 water-carrying aircraft were being used to fight the flames.

Hot air from North Africa has caused the most severe heatwave in Iberia since 2003, one of the worst years on record for forest fires.

Temperatures in Spain and Portugal will remain above 40C at least until Sunday, with the IPMA weather service expecting 47C in Santarem in central Portugal later on Saturday, just below Europe's record high of 48C, set in Athens in 1977.

The previous record highs in both Spain and Portugal were just over 47C. Portuguese weather forecasters said the hot air from North Africa also brought particles of sand, which tend to subdue maximum temperatures slightly.

Three men died this week in Spain as a result of soaring temperatures. Two died of heatstroke in the southeastern region of Murcia, Spanish radio Cadena Ser reported, while another man died in Barcelona on Friday, emergency services said.

The Spanish military assisted emergency services fighting a wildfire in Nerva, southern Spain, on Friday and Saturday, but the blaze was now stabilized, emergency services said. Two people were injured and six homes damaged in a separate forest fire near Madrid on Friday, they said.

The longest drought in decades has been drying out rivers in the Netherlands and affecting farmers in Germany. Wheat fields have been devastated across northern Europe, driving up prices.

In Scandinavia, temperatures hit records until a few days ago. In Sweden, July was a record hot month and wildfires burnt in parts of the country.

Temperatures approached 30C this week in Finland, where the August average is 19C. With few air-conditioned homes in the country, a supermarket in Helsinki invited 100 customers to sleep in its air-conditioned store on Saturday.

Authorities on both sides of the Baltic Sea, in Sweden and Poland, have warned against swimming due to a huge bloom of toxic algae spreading because of hot temperatures.

LONDON, August 2, 2018 (News Wires) - Most of Europe will bask in above-normal temperatures from August to October, forecasts from The Weather Company show.

"The warm and dry summer pattern has persisted across much of northern/western Europe and Scandinavia in July," said Todd Crawford, the forecaster's chief meteorologist.

"We expect this to continue into August, although there are now some indications that the low pressure ... may give way to higher pressures at some point in August, which would reduce the risks for extreme warmth over at least far western Europe."

BERLIN, July 27, 2018 (News Wires) - Researchers say heatwaves of the kind currently being seen in northern Europe have become twice as likely due to climate change.

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution team said Friday they have compared observations and forecasts for the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland with historical records going back to the early 1900s.

They concluded the likelihood of three-day stretches of extreme heat in those areas has increased at least two-fold.

The group, which works to determine if there's a link between weather phenomena and climate change, said current temperatures further north are so unusual there's not enough data to predict their future likelihood.

Erich Fischer, an expert on weather extremes at ETH Zurich in Switzerland who was not involved with the study, said the authors use well-established methodology and "their estimates may even be rather conservative."

 

 

MOSCOW, July 10, 2018 - The World Cup semi-final stage is beginning with the all-European lineup being celebrated by soccer's governing body on the continent. Belgium and France play in St. Petersburg on Tuesday and then Croatia and England meet the following night in Moscow.

It is the fifth time the last four has featured only European teams.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin says "even though some of our traditional contenders such as Germany, Spain and Portugal were eliminated, there are other teams which have surpassed expectations and can now win the title."

In a statement to The Associated Press, Ceferin added "these results validate all the work that is being done across the continent to develop football, and they also showcase the strength and quality that exists across the whole UEFA region."

 

 

 

 

CAIRO, July 8, 2018 (MENA) - Egypt's Grand Imam of Al Azhar Ahmed el Tayeb stressed the importance of involving youth in efforts to promote dialogue and peace between East and West. This came in a meeting between Tayeb and UK Ambassador to Egypt John Casson.

For his part, Casson stressed the need of European countries for Al Azhar's moderate approach to achieve social stability in light of the multiculturalism witnessed by these societies.

He pointed out that the messages of Tayeb and his speeches to the west achieved this goal through his constant call for Muslims in the west to integrate positively in their communities.

During the meeting, Tayeb also noted that young people with the capacity and the ability to use modern means of communication has the ability to break the barriers and correct misconceptions that have damaged relations between religions

BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON, July 8, 2018 (News Wires) - European leaders say they no longer have any illusions about Donald Trump as they welcome the US president at a NATO summit this week, but they fear his "America first" agenda may force a moment of reckoning that works to no-one's benefit.

After searching for stability and familiarity in US foreign policy in Trump's first year in office, America's friends in Europe have come to accept the president as an unpredictable political insurgent. But that does not make it any easier to see their own priorities undermined.

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned in a recent speech that "old pillars of reliability are crumbling", in a veiled reference to the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to tariffs on EU metals exports and the threat of more to come on cars.

On NATO's old foe Russia, the administration has sent mixed messages by intensifying a US military build-up in Europe while railing against fellow NATO members on defense spending and failing to coordinate on new sanctions on Moscow in 2017.

The US president - the de facto leader of the nearly 70-year-old North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - has indicated what his message will be at the two-day meeting from Wednesday: other governments must dramatically step up military spending and lower import tariffs.

"I'm going to tell NATO: You've got to start paying your bills. The United States is not going to take care of everything," Trump told a rally last week, adding: "They kill us on trade."

US officials and politicians regularly say Washington spends 70 per cent of its defense budget on NATO, a claim that is flatly denied in Europe. One senior EU official said the number is more like 15 per cent. Like many of the officials and diplomats quoted for this story, he asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the record.

EU officials also contend EU tariffs on most US imports are already low.

A disastrous NATO summit could provide even worse optics than the divisive Group of Seven meeting in June, especially if a scheduled meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16 is more convivial, NATO diplomats said.

Wess Mitchell, assistant US secretary of state for European affairs, told diplomats and NATO officials in a recent speech in Brussels that Trump was taking a new approach to problems that have festered for years, such as the Middle East peace process - even if it means going it alone.

"In the actions we take, we are hoping to spur a multilateral response to address some of the world's toughest challenges," Mitchell said.

He was echoing private comments made earlier to senior EU diplomats in Washington by Fiona Hill, a top advisor at the US National Security Council, which were described to Reuters. Hill sought to place Trump's policy decisions into a coherent whole, they said.

"It came as shock. We realised Trump cares little for the coordinated US-EU foreign policy of the past," said one senior diplomat present. "We are stuck without US leadership."

At a reception in June celebrating 100 years of American and European partnership in Brussels, Washington's top diplomat to the European Union, Adam Shub, sought to highlight common ground, even on issues such as trade and Iran. The gesture met with muttered disagreement from EU diplomats in the room.

Asked about transatlantic tensions, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has cited the 1956 Suez Crisis and the 2003 Iraq war as examples of policy disagreements that have been overcome.

EU officials say Trump appears uninterested in solutions, however. They say he ignored top-level talks between EU envoys and US trade and State Department officials this year to avoid metal tariffs and keep Washington in the Iran deal.

On defense, Europe and Canada have tried to show they are responding to Trump's demands. Defence budgets in European NATO members, Canada and Turkey are expected to rise by almost 4 per cent in 2018, a nearly $90 billion cumulative increase since 2015.

That may not be enough to keep Trump from raising the stakes again next week, a senior US defense official said recently.

"There is a better-than 50-50 chance that the president will disrupt the NATO summit, probably by complaining again that others aren't carrying their fair share of the burden, and possibly by threatening to withdraw if they don't step up on his terms," the official told Reuters.

Two senior NATO diplomats told Reuters they are prepared for a worst-case scenario that Trump would announce a freeze on US military exercises or withdraw troops from the Baltics in a gesture to Putin.

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